The track at Gilling has evolved over the years since the club’s inception in 1983 both in its layout and method of construction. The railway consists of an up and down main line loop of approx. 404 yds. There are two sizable shunting yards and one smaller one. The main lines and some other track branches take 7 1/4″ gauge traffic, 5″ and 3 1/2″. The shunting yards are all 5″gauge. The original track circuit used aluminium flat-bottomed rail spiked to Jarrah timber sleepers which were nailed to longitudinal battens to give some stiffness to the track formation. The battens proved to be the Achilles heel of this construction as rot eventually set in despite being well soaked in creosote. Therefore, a few years ago they were replaced, sections at a time, with a cast concrete track bed, with alternate sleepers secured to the concrete with Rawlplugs and wood screws. The concrete track bed is 15” wide and approximately 3”- 4” deep, expansion joints are fitted at intervals to avoid cracks developing. Before casting, hardcore is forced into the ground to stabilise the earth in that area as a lot of the ground is fine clay that is unstable when wet.

Before laying track, a concrete kerb is cast alongside the track bed to retain the ballast and provide an edging for the surrounding grass. The track panels are made up using 4 or 5 metre lengths of aluminium rail. For the curves, the inner rails are shortened by a calculated amount and all the rails are rolled to something like the correct radius. All the fishplate bolt holes are drilled before assembling the panels. Originally the sleepers were precision sawn from full size Jarrah (or similar hardwood sleepers) and jig drilled with undersize holes to take the spikes. It was practice to spike just one rail firmly to the sleepers at the assembly stage, leaving the spikes on the other three rails a little loose to permit easy lengthwise adjustment of the rails on site to equalise the rail gaps and to give greater flexibility to adjust the line of the track. It was decided, in addition to screwing alternate sleepers to the concrete, to bed each sleeper on Aqua seal roofing felt adhesive to provide a useful anti-rot layer under the wood and prevent small particles of grit from working in between the sleepers and the concrete. To provide a better bond for the adhesive, after rubbing down the concrete to remove any slight irregularities, the concrete base was coated with Febprufe bituminous liquid membrane. Finally, ballast is applied, which in this method of construction is purely cosmetic and the earthworks can then be tidied up and grass sown.

This method of construction was more finely honed for building the extension in 1996 – 1997 and for those interested in greater detail we suggest you read the articles in “Engineering in Miniature” March & April 1998 also issues 13 & 15 of “Turnout” the GL5 magazine. These also show photographs of construction methods. The yards use the same method of construction, though the concrete beds are wider to encompass several tracks, also point-work sits on ‘Y’ shaped beds so that all sleepers are always supported.

To bring Gilling into the 21st Century, the wooden sleepers are all being replaced by recycled black plastic ones. These sleepers are cut from long lengths of extruded plastic to our own cross-section, and then jig-drilled to accommodate stainless-steel self-tapping screws in place of the traditional spikes. Whilst it is not as atheistically pleasing as spiked track on wooden sleepers, this latest evolution to track construction will deliver a very long life, the plastic being unaffected by weather and exposure to sunlight.

However, we now insist that steam locomotives have enclosed ash-pans to prevent the dropping of red-hot cinders on to our plastic sleepers. Such cinders cause the plastic to burn, and destroys the sleeper.

The main line, consisting of the up and down main lines each consist of just over 400yds. (The six-foot way is 404yds). The steepest main line gradient is 1 in 80 and the minimum radius curve on the railway is 45 ft.